ALL CHARACTERS AND EVENTS IN THIS POST — EVEN THOSE BASED ON REAL PEOPLE — ARE ENTIRELY FICTIONAL. ALL CELEBRITIES ARE IMPERSONATED…..POORLY. THE FOLLOWING POST CONTAINS COARSE LANGUAGE AND DUE TO ITS CONTENT IT SHOULD NOT BE VIEWED BY ANYONE.
Last night I saw a rerun of one of my favorite South Park episodes, “All About Mormons.” I recommend it wholeheartedly to those with strong testimonies who aren’t afraid of a little coarse humor. Ronan has already blogged about it here.
South Park has a long history with the Mormons. In episode 411, “Probably,” the mormons were identified as the correct faith. Later, in the “Super Best Friends” episode, Joseph Smith was one of the Super Best Friends, a team of religious leaders who do battle against magician David Blaine. Joseph’s Ice Powers freeze over the Reflecting Pool at the Washington Monument, thereby preventing the mass suicide of Blaintologists.
But “All About Mormons” is interesting not just for its hilariously lampooning version of the Joseph Smith story, but of its portrayal of Mormons themselves, as strait-laced, squeaky clean but deliriously (and suspiciously) happy families. Mormons love rice krispie treats, have Family Home Evening and (zanily) paint their faces before going to the fire station to donate blood. Their togetherness and sheer happiness is in eerie contrast to typical South Park homes.
In the episode, Stan befriends Gary, a new boy in the neighborhood who’s a Mormon. Ultimately the seeming craziness of Mormonism and the abnormally happy lifestyle is too much for Stan, and he snubs Gary. Gary’s reply, at the end of the episode, is both classic South Park and interesting for our purposes:
Look, maybe us Mormons do believe in crazy stories that make absolutely no sense. And maybe Joseph Smith did make it all up. But I have a great life and a great family and I have the Book of Mormon to thank for that. The truth is, I don’t care if Joseph Smith made it all up. Because what the church teaches now is loving your family, being nice and helping people. And even though people in this town might think that’s stupid, I still choose to believe in it. All I ever did was try to be your friend, Stan, but you’re so high and mighty you couldn’t look past my religion and just be my friend back. You got a lot of growing up to do, buddy. Suck my balls.
Is this good enough for us? Can we not care that we “believe in crazy stories that make absolutely no sense?” How much does it matter that “maybe Joseph Smith did make it all up,” given the Church’s teachings today and its capacity to draw us together and make us happy? It seems to me that South Park argues that the social aspects of our faith may be sufficient unto themselves, regardless of the efficacity of our ordinances or the historicity of our scriptures. Trey Parker and Matt Stone miss the point to a certain extent — if our stories ARE true, it makes all the difference in the world — but they may also be right about one thing: even if it’s not true, it still may be worth believing in.